Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Arran 16 Year Old Single Cask (Master of Malt)

Todays dram is the Arran 16 year old Single Cask bottled by the Master of Malt. At 55.4% this is likely to be a potent sipper…. At least I hope so. As a musical accompaniment I have chosen to throw on Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – Flight of the Cosmic Hippo.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones is a unique band of incredible talents. They play a mix of bluegrass, jazz, funk and rock. Essentially they are a jazz-funk-bluegrass fusion band; if a name must be given. Master banjo artist Bela Fleck formed this band in the late 80s. Also in the band is one of the worlds’ greatest bass players Victor Wooten and his brother Future Man (Roy Wooten). Future Man is not only a phenomenal drummer he is a musical inventor of genius proportions. One of his inventions that he plays is an instrument called the “Synthaxedrumitar”. This instrument is held like a guitar and sounds like one of the most impressive drum kits around. Recently he also invented an instrument that looks like a piano yet plays notes based on the Periodic Table of Elements and the Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio is an algebraic term. This Future Man is truly the funkiest nerd I have ever heard of. I mean that as a complement.

According to the Master of Malt Website the single cask that this Arran whisky sat in for 16 years was a refill sherry cask. It was distilled in 1996 and bottled in 2012.         

The Isle of Arran is the seventh largest Scottish island. It is located off the east coast of Scotland. Due to its bisection by the Highland and lowland lines it apparently has incredible rock formations. It is therefore considered a geologists paradise. Geologists come from all over the world to bask in this rocky glory. It is also rumoured that Robert the Bruce while in exile hid in a cave on the island. While hiding he watched a spider repeatedly climb the cavern wall to build its web falling many times. I wonder if this is the origin of the Itsy Bitsy Spider song.    

Musical genius with mathematical and scientific influence, geology heaven, and a bit of history. With this dram I am going to make a toast to nerds everywhere.

Nose: Initially I get notes of the sea; salt and seaweed. There is also a syrupy (not maple) sweetness.

Palate: A warming sensation envelopes the notes of pepper butter and ginger and a gentle sweetness.

Finish: The finish is clean leaving traces of wood, clove, cinnamon and iodine.

An interesting dram but not one I was entirely fond of. I found that it was a bit dry and I didn`t get any of the sherry.

“JlQoS” (I`m Sorry - in Klingon) Nerds. Endeavour to honour you in the future with a more pleasing toast, I will.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Auchentoshan - Three Wood

Today I get to try the Auchentoshan Three wood. This will be my first post for a Lowland whisky. Lowland whiskies tend to be light and subtle. I have heard that they can be a good choice for whisky newbies. I tend to use Speyside whiskies for those introductions; yet this is likely to be only because I don’t have many Lowland style whiskies to choose from locally.  There aren’t very many distilleries in the Lowland region either. In fact Auchentoshan is only one of two major distilleries in the region; the other being Glenkinchie. Auchentoshan is located close to Glasgow while its’ main regional competitor is closer to Edinburgh. Of the two Glenkinchie is commonly considered to be the classic malts Lowland representative.    

After just having enjoyed a lovely steak dinner I am in the mood to relax. So for todays’ entry I have opted to listen to Leo Kottkes’ – One Guitar, No Vocals. This instrumental album is loaded with incredible acoustic guitar work. Leos’ playing is awe inspiring in its complexity and relaxing and dream like in its subtlety. I thought based on my mood and the potential for this whisky to be subtle that this would be a good pairing. Only a taste will tell.

Nose: Right away I am for some reason reminded of some Canadian whiskies. It is light and sweet on the nose. I detect a sharp sherry note. This is joined by orange and a strong scent of vanilla custard. A dusty hint of wood also presents itself. Other than that lingering sharpness there is a pleasant creaminess to this nose.

Palate: Charred wood comes out initially, followed by creamy notes of raisin, date and other dark dried fruit.

Finish. The finish is long. Strong notes of coffee and some smoky wood linger.

I was a little apprehensive going into this tasting. I have heard a lot of reviews on this whisky that range from awful to glorious. I have also heard a lot of negative reviews based on the consistency of this dram. I can’t speak to the consistency but I can say that I really enjoyed this whisky; so much so that I am going to add it to my wish list. Another reminder that if a whisky sounds interesting but the reviews are negative it may still be worth a try. As for the pairing it is one of the best yet. The smooth complex guitar arrangements complement the character of the whisky nicely.

Well until next time enjoy the music.                

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Benriach "Heart of Speyside"

As the snow continues to melt and the temperatures rise I feel my mood escalating and that old elation at the thought of summer kicking in. Right now is affectionately known as mud season here in the Yukon. This is likely to be the reality for at least another few weeks. Still sitting here at almost 9:00 PM with sunset not even begun has a pretty positive effect on the spirits. Speaking of which today's post is going to feature the Benriach - "Heart Of Speyside" accompanied by The Who: Who's Next.

I am not familiar with Benriachs' whiskies. I do know that they like to experiment a lot with their expressions and often use funky sounding latin names for their releases. This particular whisky apparently took its name from the fact that the distillery is located in the heart of the Speyside region. I have heard good things about the Curiositas and the Importanticus Fumosus. I will continue to look for those bottlings. At this time I have this expression available to me and this is their flagship bottle. 

The Who are known for their brilliant live performances where they trash the stage. They are also known for their hard rocking unforgettable songs. They are less known for their softer melodic music... at least by me. This album really showcases Roger Daltreys' great voice and singing talent. One of my favourite works by this group is Tommy. This album was later released as a  film staring Roger Daltry as Tommy. The rest of the cast features many other notable performers such as Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Jack Nicholson. I just mention this other work because I think it showcases eclectic nature of this band. Eclectic like the range of whiskies released by Benriach. 

Now on to the dram.

Nose:  On the nose this whisky almost reminds me of an "un-aged" whisky. It is like unbaked bread with slight floral notes. There is also a bit of green apple and just the faintest whiff of smoke.

Palate: The palate is loaded with wood and grape. I detect a note of perfume at the end.

Finish: A long finish with a slight citrus tang. The grape becomes honeyed. At the back of the finish is a bitter medicinal taste, like when you are trying to swallow an aspirin and you can't quite get it down fast enough.

That is certainly a different whisky than I have ever tried. The youth of it comes through in the bread like nose, and grape taste. Right up to the last fading of the finish I was impressed... until that bitter note struck.  

What I will leave this at is that this quiet, soft spoken whisky didn't seem to have much to say; however, paired with the rock of The Who this whisky in all its youth found its voice. I don't know if that is a testament to the power of The Who or if I'm actually on to something here with this whisky and music pairing concept. Can certain music make certain whisky better? Can certain whisky make certain music better? The truth is out there.     

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Talisker 57⁰ North

Now that March is gone and we are into April, it is time to step away from Ireland and return to the advent calendar. Todays’ offering is the Talisker 57⁰ North. This is a higher strength version than the standard 10 year old, at 57%. The name is a reference to the latitude of the Isle of Skye where the distillery is located. It is a sometimes harsh area that like the Yukon can also be beautiful. As you can see from the photo I also happen to have a bottle of this expression that I have been saving for the right occasion.    

As a musical companion I figured I would listen to Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys. A smoky high strength whisky and a guy who sets his guitar on fire; I figure I can’t go wrong.    

Jimi Hendrix formed the Band of Gypsys in 1969 after leaving the Experience. This band is more blues rock than the psychedelic rock of the Experience.  There is a lot of jamming and grooving. Billy Cox and Buddy Miles create incredible rhythm to accompany Hendrixs’ blazing solos. It is hard to imagine that Band of Gypsys signifies the beginning of the end for Jimi, because to me it sounds like he is at the top of his game. Sadly Jimi walked off stage a couple of times and after that it was over. It is said that the constant playing and pressure to produce new music led to this behaviour and eventually Jimis’ demise. It is a real tragedy that the world will never know the real potential of this incredible artist.

It is now time to raise a glass to Jimi.

Nose: This may be the most savoury whisky I have encountered. The ocean scents of salt and seaweed mix with pepper and kipper. This is a little weird, but not unpleasant.

Palate: In the mouth it starts off like dessert. The sugar sweetness then turns into a smoky, spicy pepper fest.

Finish: salt, pepper and lemon hang on for a long time.

After tasting this whisky I really can’t help but think of fresh caught Alaskan salmon baked on a camp fire. Even though it may not be exactly the right season for that I can still look forward to this type of activity. The days are growing longer and warmer, and the snow is melting.

A fitting thing to be reminded of since the Alaska government just overturned a certain bill. Over the last few years we Canadians living in the Yukon have been able to buy an Alaska fishing licence for the same fee and with the same allowances as our neighbours.  The bill that got rejected sought to repeal that practice. This privilege that the Alaskans' extend to us is a two way street. It is a testament to the relationship that exists between us. Dismissing this courtesy would lessen the special bond that exists.

Well until next time happy fishing